Overview of the Program
The greatest biological challenge of the 21st century is to understand the mechanisms of human behaviour. This intellectual challenge is of enormous practical significance, given the burden of neuropsychiatric disease on our community.
2002 marks the arrival of almost complete genome sequences for the four organisms with a nervous system - humans, mice, flies and worms. Our aim is to build a bridge between genomic information and neuroscience at the increasingly complex levels of molecules, cells and systems in humans. Studies on the molecular basis of learning in animals will be crucial to this aim, which will drive new approaches to human psychiatric illness. We will use this genome information in a general strategy for understanding behaviour at the molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience levels in humans.
The Genes to Cognition (G2C) programme of research will improve our understanding of the pathologies of learning impairment, cognitive decline with ageing, dementias, schizophrenia and related psychoses and brain injury.
The G2C framework will be developed around the current understanding of the molecular basis of learning & memory. We will conduct a systematic study of variations and polymorphisms in mouse and human genes and explore how these genes influence a broad range of phenotypes including gene expression, protein function, physiology and behaviour, especially cognition.
This integrative approach should help to close the gap between the shortcomings of psychiatric genetics, which has yet to identify genes for the major psychiatric disorders, and the basic science of cognition in lower organisms that does not, so far, exploit the great strides that have been made in understanding human cognitive psychology.
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